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DR LORNA LAYWARD, from Research into Ageing - the biomedical research arm of Help the Aged, offers the following advice to older people to help ward off the flu this winter

Q What is flu?

A Influenza - flu - is a disease of the lungs and upper airways.

Symptoms include fever, general muscle aches and pains, sneezing and the feeling of general tiredness.

Complications associated with flu include bacterial chest infections and in extremely rare circumstances, flu can develop into a high fever, acute bronchitis, encephalitis and even pneumonia.

Q Why do I need a flu vaccine?

A Every year 3,000 to 4,000 deaths are caused by influenza in the UK - more than 85%of those occur in people over 65.

As we age our ability to fight infection declines, which is why flu in old age can potentially be deadly.

As well as this, untold numbers of people are left bed-ridden or admitted to hospital for weeks at a time due to flu.

Q I had a flu vaccine last year, why do I need another?

A Every year the strain of flu is different, therefore a flu vaccine is required annually.

Q How do I get a vaccine?

A Call your local GP surgery to book an appointment to get a flu vaccination. Most surgeries will be running flu clinics at this time of year, so book now.

Q Do I have to pay to get the vaccine?

A The flu vaccine is free of charge to everyone over 65 and those in at risk groups. But despite this, around 30% of the over 65s still fail to get the vaccine.

If you do not fall into an "at risk" category, you may face a charge for the flu vaccine. For further information ask your GP.

Q What else can I do?

A The simple truth is that a flu vaccine is the best way of preventing flu. However, obvious hints and tips such as holding up your hand when sneezing and regularly washing your hands can prevent the spread of germs.

A balanced diet with at least five portion of fruit and vegetables a day is a great way to boost your immunity.

Research into Ageing, the biomedical research arm of Help the Aged, funds a number of research projects which are investigating ways to help prevent the immune system becoming weaker with age, as well as various other agerelated conditions. To donate contact 0207 239 1984 or visit
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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